Sunday, September 30, 2007

Photo Post: Close-Ups in Santa Barbara

Images from a weekend in Santa Barbara

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Write Your Senator: No War Against Iran

You can crib from this e-mail I sent to Senator Feinstein, who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment yesterday. (Senator Boxer courageously and boldy stood with the minority against this dangerous Amendment.):
Dear Senator Feinstein:

I write to express my profound disappointment with your vote yesterday in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment urging the President to designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. I suspect that the President requires no such urging.

At a time when all reasonable people have realized that the Iraq War has been a total and absolute disaster, I would have thought that the lessons about the dangers of granting this Administration anything that could possibly be construed as authorization for initiating yet another war in the Middle East would be blazingly clear. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who noted that this amendment, authored by hawkish Senators bent on yet more war, amounted to Dick Cheney's "fondest pipe dream."

I am at a loss to understand the reasoning behind your vote. This Administration needs no encouragement to find reason to go to war with Iran, especially not from Democrats in the Senate. Your fellow Senator from California, Barbara Boxer, had the courage to stand with the minority and vote in opposition to this dangerous amendment. I only wish you had shown the same political courage.

The American people do not want another war. We do not want more lost lives in the Middle East. As a loyal Los Angeles Democrat, I urge you to reconsider the support you have lent to this Administration's drive to war, and I implore you to resist the drive to war against Iran.

[Octopus Grigori]
Los Angeles, CA
The roll call of Senators voting for, against, or just missing the vote is here. Contact information for your Senator is here. (New Yorkers, I'm sure you'll be shocked, but both Schumer and Clinton voted for this Amendment.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Democracy Is Great

Letter to the NY Times:
To the Editor:

Re “Mr. Ahmadinejad Speaks” (editorial, Sept. 25): In commenting on the appearance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia, you say, “Unlike Iran’s citizens, Americans have the right to laugh at leaders.” Yes, we do have that right, and I’m glad for it.

But when was the last time President Bush appeared before an audience that laughed at him? His audiences are always screened for potential troublemakers. People wearing T-shirts or carrying signs with critical messages are kept out of view. He barely has to face a difficult question from a member of the public.

It would be nice if we could exercise the right to laugh at our leaders where they might actually hear the cackles.

Doug Henwood

New York, Sept. 25, 2007
(And just to be totally clear, I am not Doug Henwood. But I do endorse his views!)

Lighten Up, Slightly: Kyl-Lieberman Amendment to the Rescue!

Okay, I should admit to being an overbearing bummer lately. So I'll just note in passing that the Senate passed a significant "non-binding" amendment today, authored by Senators Kyl and Lieberman (our fearless champion of endless war against the Mohammedans on behalf of, um, Connecticut), that "urges" President Bush to designate Iran's standing army as a terrorist organization. (I am sure that Bush requires this urging.) Many see this as a first step to a brand spanking new war on Iran and our newly designated existential threat to the world, Ahmadinejad. (This is going to go great!) Please take a moment and listen to Senator Jim Webb's eloquent and forthright denunciation of this crafty means by which to push us into yet another war: the video is here.

For those of you who care: Senators Biden and Dodd voted against this amendment. Senator Obama had something more important to do and didn't show up for the vote. And Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton? She made sure to show up and vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. Because, really, if Hillary didn't urge the President to designate Iran's army a terrorist organization, who would?

I had been toying with the idea of giving in and supporting Hillary in recent days. (Don't ask.) But this vote -- it represents all that is worst about her: five years after voting to authorize the President to invade Iraq, she has yet to accept the profound error of that judgment, and today, she has gone ahead and taken a step eerily similar to that Iraq vote: she has helped to put us on the precipice of yet another war. Mike Gravel said at the Democratic debate tonight that he was "ashamed" of Clinton for this vote; she responded with that bizarre laughing sh*t she's been doing lately. But it is shameful and can't be cackled away. The American people do not want another war. We don't want war with Iran. We don't want more death. But Cheney, Lieberman, Giuliani and Co. do want war, and Hillary's not going to get in their way. In fact, she will help them get there.

I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. And I urge you not to either.

More on the glorious backdoor entry to further endless war here, here, and here.

Call your goddamn Senators and Representatives and let them know that you do not support preemptive war on Iran!

(Sorry, I was supposed to lighten up.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flavor of the Month

I don't have much to add to what Juan Cole and Glenn Greenwald have already said about the "controversy" about Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia.

I'd also recommend to you Katrina Vanden Heuvel's piece on the incessant and moronic drumbeat to war on Iran. (Although, I do wish she would select a different author photo on the Nation's website.)

I've now learned how to properly spell Ahmadinejad without having to look it up every time.

Legislators in New York, including State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, want to punish Columbia for allowing Ahmadinejad to appear at the forum today. Welcome to America, everyone. Now say only what we will agree to hear or shut the f*ck up.

Ahh, the New York Sun, a fair and balanced paper from which to get objective reporting and reasonable editorials. I'm so glad there are such fine examples of journalistic integrity out there. No, the New York Sun is not a paper with a nakedly obvious political agenda. They are just trying to report the facts.

Repeat after me: Hussein Ahmadinejad is the New Hitler (TM) and we must destroy him!

Your two minutes hate is now over. 8 ] Return to your normal duties.

Update: Bush Giuliani is the New Churchill (TM). All hail Bush Giuliani!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Zombie Hipster: Et In Arcadia Ego

I saw a zombie hipster at the Machos Tacos in Los Feliz on Saturday night. Her friends were out on the corner in front of the restaurant, talking somewhat anxiously about what to do about her -- in between catching up on where everyone was living now, and where they were headed for later that night.

I was eating a veggie burrito alone and reading the Onion (I had been waiting for a long time for the spoof on American Apparel). The zombie hipster had tramped in and slumped down at another table, not having ordered anything, and was fiddling with her pockets, looking like she was about to start scratching herself. From the quick looks I got of her between bites of my burrito, she appeared both emaciated and unhealthily bloated. She looked like she was probably in her early twenties, but it was hard to tell: her deathly pale face seemed to be covered in pustules or some kind of rash. Her eyes seemed cold and dead, and her movements were jerky like, um, the dancing zombies in Thriller.

She kept pulling things out of her pockets. The first thing she pulled out were very dirty Ipod headphones; their white wires were grimy and yellowed. (It struck me later that these were simply too perfect as zombie hipster props and made me wonder whether she had just come from some Comedy Central shoot.) As I went to throw out my plate, I noticed that she was wearing suede vintage Converse sneakers, thin wale corduroys, and a leather jacket. She had an ornate tattoo just below her neck; her white shirt was open wide, likely to display the tattoo.

My initial thought was that she might be homeless, but that mental categorization was thrown off as she fumbled through her pockets and pulled out a digital camera, a newish-looking cell phone, and other shiny accouterments, handling these briefly -- perhaps displaying them as a reassurance to both herself and those around her -- before jamming them back into her pockets. Her hands looked grey and withered. Her clothes and sneakers were pristine.

Perhaps she was fine. Perhaps she was just having some skin problems and/or a bad trip. Or perhaps she was the hipster zombie. Perhaps, between the shows at Spaceland, drinks at the Tiki Ti, and attending her acting workshops, something had gone horribly wrong: her health spiralling downwards, some horrible, irreversible condition spreading through her body and mind. But through it all, perhaps she still felt compelled to continue to act in some pantomime of her former self, meeting up with her offensively healthy, banally attractive (dirty blonde, pale blue eyes, jeans tucked into boots) friends in Los Feliz on a Saturday night. She still wore her perfect condition Converse, carried her digital camera for potential new My Space profile pictures, and made sure her Ipod was fully charged. Perhaps she was like the Iceman, doomed, yet staggering forward on her journey, carrying with her the tools, charms, and amulets of her time.

I feel bad writing like this about this poor woman I've been calling the zombie hipster. She did seem to be in a bad way. Perhaps I should've asked if she was all right. But this is Los Angeles, and the freaks and weirdos are legion. But that shouldn't prevent basic human empathy. I will be charged with heartlessness, and I should be. Her friends were there, and after they got done talking about their auditions and friends who work at studios, they were going to help out the zombie hipster who, as I left Machos Tacos, sat staring into the pale blue glow of some personal messaging device, as if she was hoping that the device would remind her of what it was, or perhaps who she was.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy New Year

I heard a fascinating story on the radio the other day: there's a TV drama on the air in Iran right now called "Zero Degree Turn" that tells the story of the love between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman in Paris during World War II. The story centers on the Iranian's attempts to help his lover and other Jews flee the Nazis and escape to safety in Tehran. The drama is currently the most popular TV show in Iran.

I had no idea, but this story is based on the true story of an Iranian man named who helped more than one thousand Jews obtain Iranian visas to escape the Nazis:
[The show's creator,] Mr. Fatthi, 48 years old, is a well-known director of historical fiction for television. In the past, his work has focused on Iranian history. But he also dabbles in comedy, winning international critical acclaim two years ago for a hit feature, "Marriage, Iranian Style."

He says he came up with the idea for "Zero Degree Turn" four years ago as he was reading books about World War II and stumbled across literature about charge d'affaires at the Iranian embassy in Paris. Abdol Hussein Sardari saved over a thousand European Jews by forging Iranian passports and claiming they belonged to an Iranian tribe.
WSJ. More on Sardari, known as the "Schindler of Iran".

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Liveblogging the 2007 Women's World Cup

I'm enjoying the New Zealand-China match in the 2007 Women's World Cup, which is showing on Galavision right now. The Women's World Cup is being held in China this year (it was supposed to be held in China in 2003 but was rescheduled due to the SARS outbreak). Both teams are very good, and the players on the New Zealand team are hot.

Speaking of which, check out the amazing 21-year old Brazilian player Marta, who was named FIFA's 2006 Player of the Year, and who has become a fan favorite during this World Cup.

Long live soccer!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Howard Dean for President in 2004

If you ever needed further proof that John Kerry is a miserable, tone-deaf, humorless corpse, please pay attention to the stupid and horrific "joke" Kerry makes as the student being arrested is being pinned to the ground by four or five security guards, about to be tasered: "I want to answer his question. Unfortunately, he's not available to come up here and swear me in as president."

F*cking hilarious, Senator.

United We Stand

From a piece by Ken Silverstein in the online-edition of Harper's:
Daniel Pipes–who . . . has signed on as a foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani’s campaign–essentially argued for war crimes against Palestinians, and there was no cry of protest from the media or anywhere else.

“Believing that if you don’t win a war, you lose it, I have long encouraged the Israeli government to take more assertive measures in response to attacks,” Pipes wrote on his blog on September 6.
In a Jerusalem Post piece six years ago, “Preventing war: Israel’s options,” I called for shutting off utilities to the Palestinian Authority as well as a host of other measures, such as permitting no transportation in the PA of people or goods beyond basic necessities, implementing the death penalty against murderers, and razing villages from which attacks are launched. Then and now, such responses have two benefits: First, they send a strong deterrent signal “Hit us and we will hit you back much harder” thereby reducing the number of attacks in the short term. Second, they impress Palestinians with the Israeli will to survive, and so bring closer their eventual acceptance of the Jewish state.
The Geneva Conventions label collective punishments as a war crime. “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” according to Article 33. “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
(Emphasis added.) Silverstein also notes in his piece that the Obama campaign had a campaign ad taken down that had appeared as a random, pop-up “sponsored link” on’s web page for the controversial book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy: "Obama’s campaign released a statement saying that while he had not actually read the book, its conclusions were 'dead wrong' and that the senator 'has stated that his support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, which includes both a commitment to Israel’s security and to helping Israel achieve peace with its neighbors, comes from his belief that it’s the right policy for the United States.'”

Obama can't really be faulted for his campaign's extravagant caution (i.e., to ensure that not even a randomly appearing ad would appear on the same Amazon web page as a book critical of U.S. policy towards Israel): see, e.g., Abe Foxman on Jimmy Carter.

Oh, and another of the foreign policy luminaries Giuliani has named as an advisor to his campaign? Norman Podhoretz, the cuddly grandfather figure of the neoconservative movement, who, undaunted by our never-ending glories in Iraq, "hopes and prays" that Bush bombs Iran posthaste.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Stop the ride. I would like to get off now.

the gates of hell

Every day there appears to be more and more evidence that our government is planning to bomb Iran. It seems very possible that our government may decide to bomb sites in Iran with nuclear weapons.

Can we stop for a moment to consider this? The administration may very well decide in the coming months or weeks to drop nuclear weapons on another country. And it is clear that the administration does not give a flying f*ck what the American people think. Is it just me that is terrified by this?

What insane chaos and destruction will we unleash upon the world by dropping nuclear weapons on Iran to thwart their nuclear program?

If this is preemption, would not other countries be able to argue that preemptive attacks on us (to prevent our preemptive attacks) were also eminently justified?

Has Iran ever attacked the United States? We have seen where preemption has gotten us in Iraq. What exactly would we be preempting by bombing Iran? How many lives are we willing to destroy on the hunch that Iran is (a) going to develop nuclear weapons, and (b) use those nuclear weapons? -- something no country has ever done except the United States. Have we not unleashed enough death in the past four years? But it appears the administration is ready to let loose the dogs of war once again based on the foresight and vision of Cheney and the neocons.

This is not the America we grew up in. The people in control of our country are about to drive all of us into a very dark nightmare.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oktoberfest in Taybeh

It's September, which means it's time for Oktoberfest in the Palestinian Christian village of Taybeh in the West Bank:
Probably one of the things one least expects to come across on a visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank is a high-spirited beer festival in full swing.

But that is exactly what visitors to the small Palestinian Christian village of Taybeh were treated to at the weekend.

The village is home to a successful family-owned microbrewery, the Taybeh Brewing Company, whose co-owner, Nadim Khoury, and his sister-in-law, Maria Khoury, staged its third annual Oktoberfest, modelled on the great beer-drinking event in Munich.
See BBC article.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kids Today

From a hilarious anonymous open letter to kids today (i.e., those born after the advent of MTV) who don't know how easy they have it. Us geezers that were born in the time of Nixon, Ford, and Carter had to go through some sh*t:
When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ... uphill BOTH ways. yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it! But now that... I'm over the ripe old age of thirty; I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it! I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email! ! We had to actually write somebody a letter ...with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3's or Napsters! You wanted to steal music; you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ's usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it!

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn’t know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like "Space Invaders" and "asteroids" and the graphics sucked ass! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens; it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! . Just like LIFE!

When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just screwed!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!

You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up. We had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire ... imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled. You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

The over 30 Crowd
I love the card catalog bit. I used to love those f*cking card catalogs.

Thanks to the always entertaining Creative-Type Dad for originally posting this letter!

The Octopus Lives

There's an interesting article on Gore in the current edition of the NYRB. Gore apparently is still definitely not running. I think it may be getting too late in the process for him to jump in, but I would still be all for it.